Student-produced film confronts racial issues, misconceptions

Christina Stavale

Although Americans have come a long way, Gerald Adkins said racism still exists in America.

This semester, he has been directing a film that he hopes will convey this message.

“We can’t blame each other for it — we have to come together to do away with it. I hope (the film) will open people’s eyes,” says Adkins, junior electronic media production major.

About 30 students have been working this semester to shed light on racial misunderstandings with the film, which is titled Collective Justice.

The film is being produced by students taking the course Practicum in African American Affairs, taught by Traci Williams, instructor in Pan-African Studies and Journalism and Mass Communication. Every semester, students in this class produce a film that sticks to the principles of Pan-African Studies.

Normally, the films do not necessarily deal with race, but this semester’s film is loosely based on the Jena 6 incident, and is centered around the misunderstandings of racial issues.

The class collectively brainstormed ideas for a script. Each person enrolled in the class was then put in charge of different aspects of the film, including locations, props, makeup, directing and writing.

Chastity Morgan, junior business management major, was in charge of writing the script. She said she’s been writing and rewriting since the beginning of the semester, and the final product is still in the works.

The plot is centered around three families — an interracial couple and their son, a lawyer and her family, and two brothers, one of whom was killed. The son of the interracial couple sees hatred between his white mother and black stepfather, and takes out this anger when he beats up and accidentally kills a young black man for supposedly dating a white student.

Williams said the film touches on how childhood upbringing affects someone throughout their life.

One theme Morgan said she wanted to convey through the script was racial injustice, and the way the media portrays black culture.

“I hope that it shines light on our community,” she said, “that it shows what’s really going on.”

A challenge Adkins said he faced directing the film was making the film meaningful to a wide audience.

“It’s a lot of work,” he said. “You’ve got to get into the story. If you want to make the story believable, and if you want to entertain the audience, you’ve got to internalize it in some way.”

Kelvin Jones, junior middle childhood education major, who plays the part of Craig, one of the best friends of the man who is killed, said he was able to put a little bit of himself into the role.

He said one of his favorite scenes of the film takes place in a graveyard, where characters reflect upon what they should do in response to the murder.

The characters are discussing injustice in society, and Jones said his character takes the opposite opinions of others in this scene, as he tells people that everything will work out in the end, while others think that they should get back at them.

Jones said he and his character are similar in that respect.

“In that scene I’m telling them, ‘Hey, we don’t need to do this — justice will take care of it,'” he said. “The cast was saying that the character Craig and me are really similar.”

Williams said the production crew is now about 70 percent finished shooting scenes, and will continue to shoot and edit through finals week and winter break. She said the film will be finished by the third week of the spring semester, and there will then be a premiere that is open to the public.

She said she hopes the film will open people’s eyes to classes in the department of Pan-African Studies and to racial issues.

“A lot of racial issues are there because people are just not educated and because of false images,” said Williams.

Contact minority affairs reporter Christina Stavale at [email protected].

Information about Practicum in African American Affairs course:

-It is taught within the department of Pan-African Studies and open to all students.

-Students can take the class more than once and for up to 15 credit hours.

-Williams encouraged any students who are interested in film production to take the class.

-Students who enjoy the class may take a more advanced version within the School of Journalism and Mass Communication called “Advanced TV Narrative,” also taught by Williams.